The change came in the 1980s, as conservative Islamist movements were burgeoning throughout the Middle East. Couples walking or driving in public together were forced to show police their marriage licenses.The Saudi government, its legitimacy threatened by such upheaval, enlisted religious police in a kingdom-wide crackdown that imposed upon all Saudis the rigidity of its most conservative cultures. And central to the conservative crusade was the castigation of women: for succumbing to Western influence, for appearing outside the home without male guardians, for speaking in voices that might distract or seduce men, for dishonoring God by failing to drape themselves completely in black.“Oh shit, it’s a checkpoint,” he said, inclining his head toward some traffic cops in brown uniforms. I rummaged through my purse, realizing that I’d left my passport in the hotel for safekeeping. As he resumed his narration, I recalled something he had told me earlier.Yasser looked behind him to see if he could reverse the car, but had no choice except to proceed. “It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here,” he had said.There are no movie theaters, restaurants and cafe’s are segregated by gender and single men are denied entry into malls and even parks.This makes dating in the western sense practically impossible, driving young men and women to meet online in forums where the virtual dating scene is flourishing.EDUCATED AND ENTERING THE WORKFORCE Over the past four decades Saudi Arabia has achieved substantial advances in education for women, most recently under reforms instituted by the late King Abdullah.
Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.” Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman.
Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too similar in appearance.
But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is shaggy.
Gender roles in Saudi society come from Sharia (Islamic law).
Sharia law has derivatives from the Quran and hadith.